NEWBERG, Ore – An Oregon school board that acted last month to ban educators from posting Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols has expanded the policy to ban district employees from posting all types of political symbols.
The Newberg School Board’s decision last month to prevent staff from displaying BLM or Gay Pride flags has drawn strong criticism and threats to boycott the town of about 25,000 people southwest of Portland and its businesses.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that the board of directors repealed the rule on Tuesday night and passed a more sweeping policy banning all types of political symbols, including those that support BLM or LGBTQ issues.
“We need to get back to education,” said board chairman Dave Brown, who joined the majority in the 4-3 vote approving the new policy. “We derailed for a long time. “
The board’s initial decision last month drew a reaction from Newberg city councilors and members of color in the Oregon legislature. The Oregon State Board of Education has called on the school board to turn the tide, saying student identities should be welcomed and affirmed.
Newberg School Board Vice President Brian Shannon said after Tuesday’s vote it was time to move on.
“This policy is so harmless. It is just saying that teachers cannot display political symbols at work while they are at school, ”Shannon said. “I don’t want to spend five, six more minutes on this issue, let alone six more weeks.”
School board principal Brandy Penner, who voted against the new, broader policy, said Shannon’s statements were a “ridiculous attempt to pretend it was nothing.”
“Maybe it’s nothing to you as a privileged white man,” Penner said. “But, this is a really big deal for a lot of our community, and a lot of our staff and a lot of our students.”
Newberg Superintendent Joe Morelock said the policy could be difficult to enforce.
“I think the difficulty is that we’re going to have different people in different buildings, different leaders who will take these complaints, and I think one of the biggest challenges is for us to have consistency across buildings on what is OK and what is wrong, ”Morelock said.